meet Inorri O’Neal, illustrator

May 30, 2012 at 12:49 pm 11 comments

In April and May of this year, I had the pleasure of working with the 4th grade students at Oakton Elementary School in Evanston, IL. The students I meet are always special, unique in a variety of unexpectedly delightful ways. In this post, I want you to meet one of Oakton’s rare gems — Inorri.
After hearing the story of The Golden Arm, Inorri O’Neal approached me. “Ms. Black, I can illustrate that story for you.”
“Really?” I asked. And then she handed me a picture.

Inorri did not exaggerate. There was the old man long in search of a wife. There was the one woman in all the land — not too tall or too short, not too talkative or too quiet, not too old or too young — who would make a ‘just right’ wife. Since the old man had two wishes — to marry and to be rich — the fact that his future bride happened to have a golden arm made her doubly attractive.
A collaboration was born. Right then and there Inorri committed to working on more pictures. With borrowed paint and a creative mind, the illustrations began to take shape.
The old woman had often questioned her husband. “Is it me you love? Or is it my golden arm?” He would always reassure her that it was his wife he loved. “Then promise me.” she said. “If I should happen to die before you, promise me you will bury me with my golden arm.”
“Of course, my love. Of course I will bury you with your golden arm.”
As fate would have it, the woman did die before her husband. He wore the blackest of black clothes and the saddest of sad faces as he took her to the cemetery to be buried — with her golden arm.
Here’s Inorri’s illustration of  this part of the story.

When the old man returned to the empty house, sat in his rocking chair, and stared at the empty rocking chair beside him, it was then that he realized, “Why? Why? Why did I bury my wife with her golden arm? I could be a rich man if I had that arm! I will return to the cemetery and retrieve it from her coffin.” Under cover of darkness, he scurried to the cemetery and began to dig.
Here’s Inorri’s illustration of the cemetery scene.

In  his haste to return to his home, carrying the golden arm close to his body, the old man forgot to close the lid on the coffin. The ghost of his dead wife escaped and went in search of the golden arm.
He thought it was the wind blowing through the trees at first. But the soft whisper grew to an angry chant. Over and over again, coming closer and closer he heard, “Where’s my golden arm?”
He hid in the closet, certain he would not be found hiding there.

But of course he was found. The sound of his wife’s voice screaming, “You’ve got my golden arm!” was the last thing the old man ever heard. The neighbors who found him dead on the closet floor a few days later could only shake their heads sadly and murmur, “Poor man. He died of a broken heart.”
We know differently, of course. But whether he died of fright or at the hand of his wife’s ghost, we may never know.

In true storytelling tradition Inorri added her own, new, ending to the story. The wife, free to roam the earth, sailed to Africa where she lived quite happily ever after.

And guess who else is living happily ever after?
That would be me — lucky enough to work with the 4th graders at Oakton Elementary School, fortunate enough to walk into Mr. Hollins’ class, and blessed to find among all of his fabulously energetic and creative students (and they were all awesome in their own unique ways and I just might write another blog about them, too) one illustrator — Inorri.

Be sure to leave a comment for Inorri. She’ll be glad you did!

Entry filed under: Just Do It -- Stories from the Field, Teaching Artist.

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Karen Chace  |  May 30, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I love this story Sue! That young lady is certainly a talented artist and storyteller; her ending is brilliant. Thank you for sharing this with us; it warmed my heart.

  • 2. megan hicks  |  May 30, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    She used her own name for the headstone. I wonder what was going through her mind. Maybe just a creative way to sign a work of art, but with kids who still have creativity intact, you never know. Thank you. This was delightful!

  • 3. Karen Chace  |  May 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Hi Sue,

    I wanted to add another thought. I found her drawings delightful and perfect for the way she used the watercolors. She gave us just enough detail so we knew what she was drawing, yet, as in storytelling, she left the details/interpretation open to the viewers imagination. Again, brilliant.

    On another note, they were blessed to have you as their mentor!


  • 4. Carol Kerman  |  May 30, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Dear Sue and Inorri,
    You both make a great team. The colors you chose were dreamy and just right for the story. The words you chose Sue were enhanced by Inorri’s fanciful details. I applaud Inorri for asking to illustrate the story, and I applaud you Sue for mentoring her.

  • 5. Lainie Levin  |  May 30, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Sue and Inorri,

    See!? This is what happens when artists get together. I love the way the words and the images play together. There is enough of both so that I can get a mental image of what’s going on, but both of you have left enough up to my imagination. Beautiful!


  • 6. Perry Hollins  |  May 31, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Hey All,

    Class 206 enjoyed reading all of the wonderful comments. Inorri said, “Thank you for the beautiful comments. I always dreamed of being an illustrator… and now I am!!!”

  • 7. Linda  |  May 31, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Beautiful images! Love the use of watercolor. Inorri has an amazing sense of how colors blend together. Great collaboration!

  • 8. Mary Grace Ketner  |  June 1, 2012 at 5:02 am

    An beautiful collaboration! So glad you shared it with the virtual universe!

  • 9. Lasley  |  June 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    dear inorri i like this story sister keep up the work

  • 10. inorri r. oneal  |  June 17, 2012 at 12:15 am

    this is inorri i just want you to know that i have many talents and if u want to work with me im free

  • 11. inorri r. oneal  |  June 17, 2012 at 12:17 am

    miss sue black i was wondering if one day we can go out somewhere and think abuot making another book also thank all our fans!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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